This year, as one would expect from the designated ‘Year of Clans’, has seen support and focus on the clan increase tenfold. A barrage of new features, usually distributed across the space of a few years, have been released in rapid succession, making up the backbone of the year’s original – that is to say, not mini-game, bot or quest related – updates.
The motives behind such updates as the Clan Camp and Citadels are inherently good. Presumably, Jagex are attempting to ‘fix’ the much maligned community – seen very much as Jagex’s Achilles heel – by making clans more appealing, thereby encouraging more group-based interaction.
Of course there are some who’ll take the pessimistic approach and label it ‘forced interaction.’ Unless these people have never moaned about the immaturity and fragmented nature of the RS community, then they are hypocrites of the highest order. Such weak criticisms as ‘forced interaction’ do not convince those outside of conspiracy theory circles.
Granted, there have been some complaints about the clan related updates this year. The reformation of the Clan Chat system that came as part of the Clan Camp update, though much needed, could have been done better. The end result is irritatingly fiddly. Similarly, said Camp needs to find a way round people just making capes for the sake of it. Citadels have also been criticised for looking like edifices and being devoid of any entertainment value.
As we can see, Jagex did not get everything right with these updates, but the intentions were sound and the execution better than usual. I find it highly unlikely that Jagex will have to renege on these clan updates as they did with trade limits, or the Gnomecopter Tours, or the Lumbridge tutors, etcetera. Solid updates tend to stay.
But – and there is a but – the concept of a ‘Year of Clans’ yields specific dangers in the long-term that may negate the progress made thus far. I feel that a comparison with Greek mythology may be the best way to illustrate the point I am going to make.
In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus of Corinth was the sort of person that might be referred to with square brackets on TIF. Sisyphus murdered travellers, slept with his niece (as part of an elaborate ploy to dethrone rival monarch Salmoneus), and even betrayed Zeus. Sisyphus even tried to double cross his wife from beyond the grave. Accordingly, he was condemned to rolling a boulder up a hill in the Underworld for eternity, only for it to roll back to the bottom as he came close to the top. Eternal frustration ensued.
If we imagine that Jagex is to take the role of Sisyphus and the top of the hill is an embodiment of some sort of clan idyll, and the boulder is the clan model, then perhaps my reason for choosing allegory to best explain my view will make a little more sense.
This is not to say that the ‘Year of the Clan’ project itself is by any means Sisyphean. I am not trying to infer that the efforts to improve clans have been futile. I see them as some of the stand-out successes of the year, alongside Bot nuking.
Instead, I am concerned that Jagex will assume, once the year ends, that their efforts this year are enough to ensure that the clan can be left alone. The clan related updates thus far have done a sterling job of widening clan appeal. But this does not make them some sort of ultimate solution. The top of the proverbial hill has not been reached, and if Jagex assumes otherwise, then the ‘boulder’ will just roll right back down. Allow me to elucidate.
Back in the days when clans had no support, the opportunities available to them were limited, their existence less well known, and less common than they are today. The Clan Chat update, and to a lesser extent Clan Wars (both 2007) made clans more prominent, made available to them new facilities to settle their differences and do things together, and gave them an in-game presence beyond the forums.
One possible reason for the advent of this ‘Year of the Clan’ is necessity. Clans have grown year on year since the 2007 batch of updates, and I think it’d be sensible to assume that they outgrew their Chat and Wars. A news item from January 14th would seem to confirm this: ‘Last year’s Clan Celebration Month was a massive success and since then we’ve seen clans emerge, friendships develop and rivalries grow.’
The 2011 batch has brought features – such as the concept of Rated Clan Wars – that were previously supported by other sites, this one included, into one central place. Just as the Clan Chat made communication easier, so too has Rated Clan Wars made competitiveness among clans easier and more definitive. Similarly, Citadels have given clans a base that, unlike a POH, is a communal effort that doesn’t financially drain one particular person.
Though it’s too early to say quite what effect these updates will have on the clans, not least because there are still more to come, it would be sensible to suggest that they will further integrate clans into the game and increase the number of players who decide to take a break from cutting logs and do something more communal. The only possible factor that may reverse this is bots, should they ever return, which aren’t exactly known for being sociable.
Assuming this, there will come a time when clans will outgrow the shiny new shoes provided for them thus far. Jagex’s somewhat mercurial approach to clans since April – who, after all, would’ve predicted that the next big clan update after the Clan Camp would be ‘Citadels’? – means it’s difficult to know what lies in store for clans. Either way, the assumption still stands: the Camp, Citadels, all will eventually become commonplace and somewhat restrictive. Admittedly, it’ll take some time to reach such a point. But it will happen.
Past actions give the impression that Jagex is aware of the need for tweaking. Clan Wars received a major update in 2008, less than a year after its release. The Clan Camp, as previously mentioned, not only added new features, but also modified old ones to make them more compatible with the new features. The news item accompanying the Clan Camp - ‘We have created the infrastructure, but that's not where our plans end: we plan to keep an eye on your feedback, making improvements to the clan systems in the future’ – is reassuring from my perspective.
All of this suggests to me Jagex’s understanding of the need for change. But the ‘Year of the Clan’ still suggest some form of final solution, as though it were the top of the proverbial hill. Jagex, for all its good moves, shows some signs of being slightly out of touch with clans. In the aforementioned news item from January 14th, Jagex mentioned ‘those [clans] that focus on just turning up at the Jolly Boar Inn for a drink and a chat’. This slight detachment from reality is trivial and amusing, but, for all their successes, we are all aware of Jagex’s ability to get things spectacularly wrong from time to time.
For the time being, Jagex seem aware of the fact that resting on their laurels is not a possibility. But their increasingly erratic updates in other fields (and this is coming from someone who, prior to last year, had absolutely no quarrel with Jagex) still don’t quite outweigh the demise of bots in terms of consistency. The ‘Year of the Clan’ must be followed up by little alterations, lest these largely well made features should fall into redundancy. It’d be catastrophic to see the boulder roll back to the bottom of the proverbial hill over something as minor as neglect.
Instead, further practical integration of the clan into the mechanics of the game, perhaps creating a few clan-specific worlds in which clans are able to claim territory of their own, over which they fight and from which they can profit in various ways – from the shops of the area, even setting up toll gates in designated, practical areas (such as the wall between Draynor and Port Sarim). All these features – though in reality they warrant an article of their own – would aid in the so-called ‘validation’ of the clan as a fully integrated feature of RS, rather than an add-on.
Such updates should be rationed over time, for two reasons: first, that sudden and rapid change often disconcerts and displeases people, and second, because it would be unwise for Jagex to use all their cards at once. The ‘Year of the Clan’ has been a mild success, and yet it is not a solution so much as a great leap forwards towards a solution. In a time when the community is still recovering from some eight months of bots and the accompanying rage, these sterling reinforcements of clans seem more precious than ever before.